Friday, February 28, 2014

Courtney Discusses Writing For the Web

Courtney of Once Upon A Bookshelf is here today to discuss the most basic of blogging tips, but also one that is very important to consider for every single blog.  Please welcome Courtney.

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You have spent hours on a blog post. Writing it, editing it, finding the perfect imagery, rewriting it, and so on… Your post is a masterpiece. It can be frustrating and very discouraging if you find that users aren’t staying on your website long enough to read your full post.

I’m not going to tell you what exactly you need to write about. We all have our own niches, write for different demographics, and have our own style. Instead, today I am going to take a look at some ways that you can format your text to make it easier for your readers to get to the important points that you’ve written. 

To start out, let’s familiarize ourselves with some of the habits of current web users.

How do people access content on the web? 
More and more people are using multiple devices to access the Internet. Desktops and laptops used to be the primary way users viewed content, but mobile devices and tablets have given users access to the Internet almost anywhere and at any time, and many users are taking advantage of this.

You can no longer assume when, where or how users are accessing your blog, but there are some things in common with the majority of Internet users these days:
  • Users want to find relevant information fast
  • Users skim pages to find what they are looking for. 
  • Users are more distracted when browsing the web. 

What does this mean for bloggers? 
This means that it’s more necessary for us to grab a user’s attention immediately, and to help them really get to the meat of the post. It means that we are competing with more distractions (noisy coffee shops, television shows in the background, etc.) to keep our users’ attention.

How can bloggers format content that is easier for users to read? 
Whether it’s for a cover reveal, a book review, or even an ode to your next door neighbour’s cat, there are a few things that you can do to make your content as easy for users to read as possible.


  • Break your content up. Use shorter sentences and paragraphs. Shorter sentences and paragraphs will help users keep focused. 
  • Use headlines, lists and bolded text. Headlines, lists and bolding important points make it easier for the information to really stand out when a user is looking over your content quickly. 

A couple of changes to the appearance of your blog can also be made. 
  • Use a font that is easy to read. Fonts that are too large or small can lower readability. You want approximately 60 characters per line for best readability (between 30-50 for mobile devices, if you have a mobile or responsive layout for your blog). Also, sans serif fonts (such as Helvetica, Verdana, or Arial) are often easiest to read on a computer screen. 
  • Make sure there is enough contrast between the text and the background. Low contrasting text can make your content harder to read. There are a few tools that are really easy to check to see if there’s enough contrast between text and the background it’s on. (One of the easiest to use is http://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/). 

Users want content that provides them with useful information, so why not make it easy for them to find that information?


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Thank you Courtney for the practical tips today!

Do you find that you agree with all of Courtney's recommendations?  What might be some other practical tips that you think are important to consider for your blog?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Featuring Melinda Ott of West Metro Mommy Reads

Today please welcome Melinda Ott, 
who blogs at West Metro Mommy Reads.

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What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

Well, first of all, my blog started out as something else...sort of a lifestyle/Mommy blog. So, West Metro Mommy = West of; Metro = Portland, Oregon; Mommy = well, that should be pretty self-explanatory.

I had been blogging for a while and then realized that I really just wanted to focus on books, so I added "Reads" onto the end to make it a bit more legit and here I am!


How long have you been blogging?

I just went back to my very first blog (which is in virtual limbo land, having not been updated in YEARS), and my first EVER blog post was March 22, 2006. So, do the math.

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

You know what makes my blog unique? It is the only book blog out there that is written by ME! How's that for an answer?

Honestly, I can't say that there is anything unusual about my blog....I like to read and I like to write about what I read.

I do also host the weekly meme "Saturday Snapshot" because, well, I have delusions of being a photographer.


What genres do you write about most, and why?

Uh...I'm guessing here....

Historical Fiction - My degree is in History and, well, I love it.

Literary Fiction - Which, in my definition, is book club fodder.

Memoirs - Because sometimes truth is more entertaining than fiction.


What's your earliest memory of reading?

Probably being read to as a child. Strangely, I didn't enjoy reading myself until I was a tween/early teen. Not sure why that is....

What was the first book you read over and over, or the book you've reread the most?

I try to read "The Scarlet Letter" every year. I fell in love with it when I read it in High School and I find something new every time I read it.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

Yes, unless it is a borrowed book. Then, it's just rude.

What's your favorite place to read?

My favorite place = By a window

My usual place = on the toilet.


Do you have any reading accessories you can't do without?

Hmmm....

Well, I have several bookmarks--necessary since I tend to have several books going at once.

I also rely heavily on a spreadsheet I created to handle my review schedule and my TBR list.


Finish the sentence: My bookshelves are...

buckling under the weight and very dusty.

My TBR pile is...

on a table next to my bed.

What's a book that's changed your life?

One of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary was the first book I willingly read on my own and enjoyed.

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

One of my favorite books is the "The Known World" by Edward P. Jones. I've discussed it in a couple of book clubs and it always seems like I'm the only person who liked it.

I also hated "Eat, Pray, Love." Go ahead, judge me.


To DNF or not to DNF?

I'm all for DNF-ing. I mean, there are too many good books to read to waste time on the bad ones.

That being said, it is very hard for me to actually DNF a book. I've done it a couple of times, but I always feel like I'm letting myself down when I do.


What's one book that intimidates you?

"Bring Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel. I read "Wolf Hall" and enjoyed it but it took me for-freakin'-ever to finish. I want to read "Bring up the Bodies," but I just don't know if I have it in me to tackle another Mantel book.

If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?

Green Gables on Prince Edward Island.

I would also add all the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, but this sounds more like a "dream list" question and I'll actually be visiting many of the LIW places this summer.


How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I have young kids, so my free time is usually spent with them.

I try not to watch too much television, but I have a handful of shows that I quite enjoy--Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Grey's Anatomy, and Grimm.


What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

My favorite would probably be Mary Poppins because the movie is such an improvement on the book (Yes, I saw "Saving Mr. Banks"...I get it, but I still didn't like the literary Mary Poppins).

My least favorite--and this should be EVERYONE'S least favorite--is the Demi Moore version of "The Scarlet Letter" (shudder!)


What are 3 of your must-read blogs?

The Relentless Reader  
S. Krishna's Books
Peppermint Ph.D.

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at http://www.bookbrowse.com/quiz/)

I'm an "All-Rounder."

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Thank you for joining us today, Melinda! 
Remember to check out Melinda's blog, West Metro Mommy Reads
and leave a comment or question.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

KT's Addiction to Romance

Please welcome KT, blogger at Babbling About Books, and More and author of a number of romance novels.  She is here today to complete the month of love by chatting about her addiction to reading romance, even giving us a few titles to kick off our next bout of romance reading!

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As a reader of the romance genre for almost twenty five years, I love giving recommendations to those who are looking for good romance novels to read. Sometimes I’m asked how I started reading romance and what books I considered the must read books any romance fan, or beginner to the genre should look for. My first foray into romance was Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind the summer I turned fourteen. My mother gave me Gone With the Wind, my first adult fiction book as her way to get me to read more. After some hemming and hawing (I wanted to stick to reading Nancy Drew and not a thousand page book about a woman during the Civil War), I took a chance on the book that would change my entire opinion about reading in general. I read Gone With the Wind in less than a week and developed a fan girl crush on Scarlett O’Hara. I wanted to read more books with characters just like Scarlett. I found myself at my local library reading as many historical romances I could get my hands on. From there I then branched out and tried all types of other romance genres such as contemporary, paranormal and a mix of fantasy and science fiction. 

I’d love to share my top favorite romance novels and authors I feel are great picks for someone who wants to start reading romance but don’t know where to start. 

The one author any romance reader must try is Lisa Kleypas. I cut my historical romance teeth mainly because of Lisa. Dreaming of You is widely considered a fan favorite of Lisa’s, as well as her Wallflower series. Lisa also writes contemporary, and Sugar Daddy, and the very emotional and powerful Blue- Eyed Devil are both books that must be read. 

Loretta Chase is another historical romance fan favorite and Lord of Scoundrels is what some considered the gateway book to the romance genre. The hero, Dain is a very unconventional and thought of as ugly as sin. Jessica, the equally unconventional heroine is his savior. A true swoon worthy read. I would also recommend Julie Garwood’s historical romances, as well as Julia Quinn and Connie Brockway. 

For the contemporary fans, you can’t go wrong with some vintage Sandra Brown. Sandra wrote many category romances in the 1980’s and are great guilty pleasure reads. Older Karen Robards and Linda Howard from the 1990’s also hit the spot with powerful and manly heroes who find their weight in gold with the heroine they end up seducing. Linda’s Cry No More will leave you in tears about a mother searching for her stolen child and the silent, yet remarkable man who helps her find answers. James Diaz is one hero that will make you fan yourself. 

Any paranormal fan must read J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. She gives a new and different spin on the vampire myth, as well as Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter who write some of the hottest and most engaging paranormal romances I’ve ever read. 

But the one romance I urge anyone to read, which happens to be my all-time favorite romance, is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons, the Word War II epic masterpiece that I read for six hours straight and was in tears. The sequel, Tatiana and Alexander is also a must read. Both these books will tear your heart open and make you bleed because they’re so tragic and heartbreaking, but also uplifting. 

The authors and books I mentioned are only a small taste of why I love the romance genre. Take a chance on any of these, and you’ll be hooked and hungry for more.

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Thank you KT for some great recommendations!

Have you read any of these titles that KT has shared with us?  What other romance novels would you add to the list?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Featuring Kristen of BookNAround

Today please welcome Kristen, who blogs at BookNAround.

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What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

I quit working a lot of years ago now to stay home with my kids but quickly discovered that stay-at-home mom is a complete misnomer. Even now that my kids are older and much more independent (one's even driving!!), I still find myself out and about, or booking around, much more than I ever expected. Plus I like plays on words so it seemed perfect.

How long have you been blogging?

6 1/2 years now.

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

The blog is mostly book reviews although occasionally I throw in posts from my chaotic life. Sometimes I might even over-share. But even in my book reviews, I try to incorporate a little about me, to make it personal. Oh, and I'm appallingly long-winded. :-)

What genres do you write about most, and why?

Fiction of all types because that's what I've always read the most of in my reading life. Now that I do reviews as well as writing up books I've chosen on my own, review books are pretty heavily weighted to fiction as well, or at least those that are offered to me are.

What's your earliest memory of reading?

I was three and I ran downstairs to read my mom The B Book by Stan and Jan Berenstain. She was on the phone talking to someone (and she can talk for hours given half a chance) and she thought I'd just memorized the book so she sort of waved me off. Stubborn even then, I read it to her anyway. I'm not sure if it was then or later that she realized I actually was reading and not just parroting memorized words.

What was the first book you read over and over, or the book you've reread the most?

I've had several through the years. As a peanut I read The B Book over and over obsessively (and I still have a copy). As a child, I went back through The Fabulous Flight by Robert Lawson again and again (and I still have my copy). As a young teen, read and re-read Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman weeping all the while (and I still have my copy). And as an adult, I have gone back to Pride and Prejudice many times because it is so perfectly balanced between social criticism and romance. And yes, I still have my copy.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

Are you trying to cause me to have a stroke? Never!

What's your favorite place to read?

In front of a fire crackling away in the fireplace at the lake cottage that has been in my family for almost 100 years. Barring that, I'll be boring and say snuggled into the sagging end of the couch.

Finish the sentence: My bookshelves are...

bowed under the weight of my treasures.

My TBR pile is...

more like Mount Everest than a mere pile.

What's a book that's changed your life?

They all do to one extent or another, right? That's why we read. But I think that James Michener's Hawaii, which I read when I was 12, was really the first big book that showed me how addictive a fictional world could be, sucking you in for days and making you not care to rejoin the real world until after the last page was turned.

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

I have a surprising number really. I tend to be the curmudgeon at my book club. One of these days they're going to kick me to the curb for my grumpiness.

To DNF or not to DNF?

I'm obsessive compulsive. Finishing is a must.

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I play tennis several times a week and I used to run and need to get back into that. I also did needlepoint for a long time and scrapbooked and quilted for a while but it's been too long to claim those as ongoing hobbies at this point. Mostly all of my non-reading time lately is still book-related.

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

I thought Age of Innocence was very well done. And of course, how can you not mention the BBC's Pride and Prejudice?!

What are 3 of your must-read blog posts?

Sunday Salon: The New Year Edition
Sunday Salon: Books my native habitat
Sunday Salon: Themed Reading

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Thank you for joining us today, Kristen! 
Remember to check out Kristen's blog, BookNAround
and leave a comment or question.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sorcha on Guilty Romances

Today, I welcome back Sorcha from Writing About Books to talk about a guilty secret:  romances.  Enjoy!

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I have a guilty, shameful secret. 

I read romance novels. Not all the time you know, honest, I do read other books most of the time. There are some years I will not read a single romance novel. Last year I read a splurge of romances, many of them Christmas themed.

I don’t know if it’s a particularly English, or European, or global trait – but why do people feel guilty about admitting reading romances? The market is huge (generating $1.4 billion in 2012 according to Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2013), books are released monthly by multiple publishers and millions of people read at least one romance novel a year.  So it’s not just me reading them apparently.

So, why the shame and guilt?

I read a lot of books, averaging between 75 and 100 books year covering multiple genres. Romances seem to be the only books I feel guilty or ashamed to admit I read – I certainly don’t have the same reaction when reading Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin or Lawrence Block. I wouldn’t call myself a literary snob, but my reaction to romance novels – reading them furtively, rarely admitting I read them – implies that perhaps I am!

I asked my twitter stream (@brumnordie) whether they read romances, and I think this response sums it for those who don’t: “Avoid. I would expect poor writing, contrived storylines and women who can't think without men” and the same person continues with “Though actually I might just be prejudiced against traditionally female things, because our culture hates women. Damn.”

Even someone I know who regularly reads romance novels replied to my question about whether they felt guilt reading one with “some guilt, lessening over time. Some is cringe-worthy and patterns bad behaviour” but continued with “they're part of my reading, mostly as palate cleansers after more complex books, or when I have no brain.” 

So, has feminism destroyed some people’s ability to read romances without shame? Have we been taught that love and compromise - even fictional - is somehow the same as “women who can’t think without men?” How do modern Harlequin novels differ to, for instance, Jane Austen novels, where in the latter I see women as much more constrained by a male dominated society, unable to inherit, have their own land, vote, or keep their own children in the event their husband allows them a divorce? (Isnt that the whole premise for Mansfield Park?)

I think my friend quoted first (above) has had no inclination to read novels produced by RWA etc, in the belief that they are badly written with women she can’t relate to, and hasn’t found the sub genre for her. However, is there a genre for her that would make her happy? I don’t know. I’m sure there are genres she should avoid such as the Historical Romances, all no-sex-before-marriage and complete-submission –to-your-husband types of books. I’ve just realised that An Untitled Lady by Nicky Penttila might just be the book for her....

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Thank you Sorcha for another fun read!

Readers:  Do you find yourself feeling guilt and/or shame when reading romance novels?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Featuring George Lichman of The Thirty Year Itch

Today please welcome George Lichman, 
who blogs at The Thirty Year Itch.

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What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

A lot changed for me in my late twenties and into my early thirties. I had an itch, as it were, for something but couldn't quite place it. My political views, works views, and even goals in life were taking shape during this transition. I also started reading. A lot. Mostly fiction, but nonfiction too. So I thought since I was about thirty years old when all this change seemed to be happening, The Thirty Year Itch seemed an appropriate name for the blog.

My early writing was not just about books. It included politics, life experience, human interest. My writing during those early years helped me discover who I am today and helped me decide what is important in life, not just for me but for society.

Since I got married and had two children, I had to reduce the effort I put into my blog. One way I did that was to focus mostly on books and book reviews. Even with the more narrow focus, I still don't read or post as often as I'd like; my children and family are first, and I want to read for pleasure, not purely for the sake of the blog. But my goal while my children are young is to keep the blog going and hope that as my children grow up I'll have more time to read and write. 


How long have you been blogging?

I've been blogging for about 7 years. 

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

The Itch probably isn't as unique as I'd like to think it is, but there are a few things that might make it stand out a little. First, I don't necessarily post only about books; anything is fair game, but books have dominated the last few years.

I also try to make my reviews a little different, too. While I won't review a book I didn't like, I will and usually do point out things about books I  think could have been better, areas where they missed the mark. It is part of the very lose format of my reviews. I have found few other bloggers who do this.

Finally, I am a full time working police officer. I think that gives me a unique perspective as a reviewer of the crime fiction genre. 


What genres do you write about most, and why?

Cringe fiction, including thrillers, legal thrillers, traditional mystery, and police procedurals. 

What's your earliest memory of reading?

Of course my mother read to us a lot as children, but my most memorable experiences include books like Tales of A Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge by Judy Blume, all the Beverly Clearly Books, Encyclopedia Brown, The Boxcar Children, Charlotte's Web, and more. Most of these were introduced or suggested by my third grade teacher, Mrs. Alice McClelland.

However, despite enjoying books as a child, I took some time off as a young adult. I was reintroduced to reading as an adult in my mid to late twenties when a friend suggested a book that he said would have me hooked in the first two pages, and if not, he'd never suggest another one. The book was The Death and Life of Bobby Z. by Don Winslow. He was right! And I've been reading ever since. 


What was the first book you read over and over, or the book you've reread the most?

I don't usually reread books over and over. There are a few I've read more than once, but usually many years apart. Flowers for Algernon, Of Mice and Men, To Kill A Mockingbird are a few. 

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

No.

"That is not how we treat our books."
Mom, circa 1980


What's your favorite place to read?

Home. In my recliner or on the couch. With a fire in the fireplace. 

Do you have any reading accessories you can't do without?

My glasses I suppose! 

Finish the sentence: My bookshelves are...

To small in number! (I would love more shelves!)

My TBR pile is...

Not getting any smaller!

What's a book that's changed your life?

As I mentioned before, The Death and Life of Bobby Z. because it introduced me to reading for pleasure as an adult. Several other nonfiction books helped me question things and define who I have become. Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Son if the Revolution, The God Delusion, Fiasco, and so many more. 

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

Not one book, but the Lincoln Lawyer series. I live Michael Connelly's Bosch series, they are among my favorite. But I can't seem to get into The Lincoln Lawyer books, even though they are lived by so many others. Connelly is still one of my top five authors, but just not that series. 

To DNF or not to DNF?

I almost always finish. Can only think of two or three that I have given up on, and even then it was tough and I always meant to get back to them!

What's one book that intimidates you?

For a while it was Gone Girl. And it wasn't the book per se, but the hype it had received. It was so highly reviewed and got so much attention that I was afraid that if I didn't like it then I didn't get it. I have that concern about a lot of books, classics mostly.

Gone Girl was great, by the way. 


If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?

Gozo. An island in the Mediterranean near Sicily. It was where Creasy went to rehab and prepare to avenge the death of the little girl he was charged with protecting in Man on Fire by AJ Quinnell. 

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I work hard, spend lots of time with my beautiful children, and like to eat good food and try new kinds of beer. 

What's your least favorite book to movie adaptation?

Man on Fire. Other than the character's names and the very loose premise, the book and the movie were nothing alike. Not even set in the same country. 

What are 3 of your must-read blogs?

Jen's Book Thoughts 

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at http://www.bookbrowse.com/quiz/)

The All Rounder

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Thank you for joining us today, George! 
Remember to check out George's blog, 
The Thirty Year Itch, and leave a comment or question.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kelly Evaluates Romance as Entertainment, Catharsis, and Activism

I am very excited to introduce you to Kelly from Reading With Analysis today.  I think her title says it all, so without further ado, I leave you with her . . .

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Romance as entertainment, catharsis, and activism: 
A limited ethnography of one romance reader

I’ve been a romance reader for a long time. It started with some Harlequin Presents stories I found on my mom’s bookshelf about twenty years ago and went on from there. I find a lot to love in the genre, and it satisfies nearly all of my reading and thinking needs.

For many years, I read for escape, seeking entertainment that would distract me from my difficulties and help me achieve a more positive outlook on life (something I, as a cynical idealist, sometimes struggle to find). I read also for catharsis, seeking out stories whose drama and emotion would help me express the deeply repressed feelings that sometimes held me in a chokehold. Lately, I’ve been finding myself reading for activism, reaching for stories that include and explore social issues within the narrative setting.

It started with Courtney Milan. Obviously I don’t mean that Milan was the first romance writer to get involved in social issues, but it was through her books that I first discovered that a romance novel could be a sweeping and emotional story of passion, an exploration of human nature in both the individual and the general scope, and a discussion piece on social issues, modern and historical. Throughout her many historical romances, Milan has written about sexual abuse and the silencing of victims, the evils of protectionism, marital abuse and the historical difficulty of divorce, inequalities of class and gender, bodily autonomy, the societal double standard vis-à-vis men’s and women’s virtue, medical autonomy, the historically narrow confines of a woman’s life, women scientists and the men who claimed their work, etc.

Milan’s rather serious and deliberate voice works for me (these books are definitely not carefree and fun, although they are sometimes funny), and I have loved every single book of hers because she sets these love stories in (what seems to me to be) realistic conditions that highlight and validate the emotional punch of love’s triumph.

Milan’s impact on my reading extends beyond her own books. After I read through Milan’s body of work, I got to thinking about some other books that flirted with social issues. Tessa Dare, another historical romance author, writes in her Spindle Cove series about a group of women who have each discovered a disgust for society’s bullshit and have taken shelter in a community founded on the acceptance and empowerment of women. Spindle Cove exists as a feminine idyll until some soldiers descend on the place and wreak manly havoc.

Dare’s stories are wildly entertaining – full of humor, snappy dialogue, and emotion – and it’s easy to overlook some of the deeper currents. (But they are there nonetheless. The first Spindle Cove novel, A Night to Surrender, can be read as a treatise on feminism in which the community of women withdraws from the world to establish a female-centric society; then a group of men move in and attempt to reassert normalcy (meaning the supremacy of the male); and then both groups learn compromise and find true equality in working together and valuing each other.) With her latest release, Romancing the Duke, Dare eased back on the humor a little bit to reveal a story that touches on more than a few social issues. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that it’s my new favorite Tessa Dare book.

Historical romances aren’t alone in exploring social themes. Robin York’s New Adult release Deeper sets its college-age love story against the backdrop of revenge porn. Its heroine Caroline finds herself imprisoned by a chattering Greek Chorus of internet asshats and by the victim-blaming cultural message -- reinforced by her school’s administration and her own father – that she herself is to blame for allowing such an apparent douchebag to take photos of her during sex. Hey women, that message says, you are not allowed to trust anyone, ever, because some people turn out to be untrustworthy. York balances the love story and the narrative context nicely, with everything built around the theme that trust, the freedom to trust, is not a luxury but a necessity. I’m incredibly leery of the New Adult trend, but I loved how this story took what seems to be a genre requirement for NA – the heroine’s traumatic back story – and knocked it out of the park with a sharp discussion of a contemporary social issue and what it means for young people trying to find love, trying to come of age in a time when the Internet is forever and none but the victims are held accountable for such public betrayals of trust.

So here’s what I’m wondering… Is there a tradeoff in terms of the entertainment or cathartic value of a love story when set against the backdrop of deeper social issues, or does the context actually increase that value by demonstrating all the reasons why we need love? I know what the answer is for me, but I’m curious to know whether others feel the same. Join in the discussion! Have you read any books – they don’t have to be romance novels – that incorporate social issues into the story? What do you think: is there a tradeoff?

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Thank you Kelly for a very thought-provoking post!  

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.  You can find Kelly over at Reading With Analysis and on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Featuring: Blodeuedd of Book girl of Mur-y-Castell

Today please welcome Blodeuedd, 

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What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

Sometimes I wish I had chosen something easier, but at least I am unique. Blodeuedd, the name I use, lived at Mur-y-Castell in Welsh tales.

How long have you been blogging?

I am going on 5 years now. I did blog personally before that though, so...10 years.

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

I, oh I do not know, I just got a style of my own. Not too long and like I am talking to a buddy. I also review a wide range of books and it's mostly reviews on my blog.

What genres do you write about most, and why?

I love many but I do think 3 are the most read on my blog. Fantasy because I adore it over everything else. Urban fantasy because it is so kick-ass, and historical romance because I love that it's light and fun (the rest of the space is occupied by historical fiction, fiction, contemporary romance and paranormal romance).

What's your earliest memory of reading?

Sitting at the library looking through books on a warm summer day and borrowing lots.

What was the first book you read over and over, or the book you've reread the most?

That would me Magician by Raymond E. Feist. Before I got overwhelmed by my TBR pile I reread it very summer.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

NO! If it's not a textbook for school.

What's your favorite place to read?

My comfy bed.

Do you have any reading accessories you can't do without?

...bookmarks.

Finish the sentence: My bookshelves are...

Over crowded.

My TBR pile is...

HUGE.

What's a book that's changed your life?

I can't say that any book changed my life but I can go with Magician by Feist, because that got me to start reading only English books.

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

I really can't say there is any book like that, maybe I know too many different kinds of readers.

To DNF or not to DNF?

Before no, now YES! I have too many books to read books that suck.

What's one book that intimidates you?

I would say Outlander, because there are so many of them so I go all, sighs, it would take so long.

If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?

A tough one because there is not really any destination like that...but if it can be one that is not real then anything in Middle Earth.

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

Then I watch tv or spend way too much time online.

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

Least favorite is any attempt at Dune by Frank Herbert. My favorite must be Lord of the Rings.

What are 3 of your must-read blogs?

Between dreams and reality
Boeklogboek
The geeky blogger's book blog

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at http://www.bookbrowse.com/quiz/)

The Eclectic Reader

You read for entertainment but also to expand your mind. You're open to new ideas and new writers, and are not wedded to a particular genre or limited range of authors.


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Thank you for joining us today, Blodeuedd! 
Remember to check out Blodeuedd's blog, Book girl of Mur-y-Castell
and leave a comment or question.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Featuring: Jackie of Romance Novels for Feminists

Today please welcome Jackie, who blogs at Romance Novels for Feminists.


What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?
I gave the blog a title that says exactly what it's all about: romance novels that feminists can read and enjoy do exist, despite popular wisdom to the contrary.

How long have you been blogging?
Since September 2012


Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?
My blog's tagline is "for readers who like a little equality with their love." Once a week (on Tuesdays), I review a romance novel that I believe espouses feminist values; once a week (on Fridays) I write more generally about the intersections between romance and feminist concerns.


What genres do you write about most, and why?
Romance, in any of its many sub-genres: contemporary, erotic, gay, fantasy, historical, lesbian, male/male, new adult, Science Fiction, young adult. As long as a book takes it for granted that equity between people in romantic relationships is possible, or a goal to strive for.


What's your earliest memory of reading?
Going to the local library with my mom and sisters, standing in front of the shelves of children's fiction. Heaven!


What was the first book you read over and over, or the book you've reread the most?
Nancy Drew, of course!


Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?
Oh, yes. Need to be able to find the lines or passages that struck a chord, especially if you want to write about them later.


What's your favorite place to read?
On one end of the couch, with a cat on my lap; if at night, with my spouse at the other end.


Do you have any reading accessories you can't do without?
A good pillow for back support and a strong reading light.


Finish the sentence: My bookshelves are...
far too few to hold all the books we own. E-readers were invented just in time to prevent our poor house from sinking into the ground under the weight of our 6000+ volume library.


My TBR pile is...
in many places: I have a pile on my e-reader; a pile on a spinning bookshelf next to my bed; a LONG list on Goodreads; a list of books I've requested through interlibrary loan, etc. etc.


What's a book that's changed your life?
When I was in the 4th or 5th grade, I was big into U.S. history (the American bicentennial celebrations had fascinated me). I remember pulling the book MY BROTHER SAM IS DEAD, a novel about life in the American army during the Revolution, off the school library shelf and taking it home to read on my own. Even though it said it right in the title, I just couldn't believe that an author would actually kill off someone as important as the narrator's brother. It was the first book I ever read that had an ending that was so unjust: Sam is executed for stealing food, even though all the troops did it (because they were starving). It just devastated me to find that out, that even the "good guys" could be so unfair.


One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?
Interestingly, I haven't had too many folks take issue with any of the romances I've reviewed on the blog. I used to be a college professor, teaching children's literature, and I remember many students not liking P. L. Travers' MARY POPPINS--it's so very different from Disney's film version. I like both versions, myself -- they each offer such interesting gifts, if one is open to receiving them. It was always a tough slog persuading younger students to embrace Travers' Mary P, though.


To DNF or not to DNF?
I rarely used to DNF. But now, with so many romances out there to read, and so many that are not as well written as one might like, I find myself pulling the plug if a book is obviously not right for me or for the blog after a few chapters.


What's one book that intimidates you?
As someone with a Ph.D. in literature, I've managed to wade through most of the intimidators in the Western canon: MOBY DICK, ULYSSES, TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, PARADISE LOST, THE DIVINE COMEDY, CLARISSA. If I have to fess up, though, I'd guess I'd point to some of the literary theory I encountered during my graduate training, especially Lacan and some of the French feminists who followed in his wake.


If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?
My spouse and I took a self-directed Jane Austen honeymoon: Bath, Lyme Regis, Chawton, and Winchester, where JA is buried. Great fun!


How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?
Quilting
Gardening
Watching the Red Sox
Snuggling with my cats
Board games and puzzles


What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?
Surprisingly, not many classic romance novels have been made into films. The BBC PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is a favorite, as is the BBC version of PERSUASION. I'd really like to see more adaptations of contemporary romance novels: why has no one filmed any of Jennifer Crusie's novels??


What are 3 of your must-read book blogs?
All About Romance
Wonk-o-Mance
Dear Author


What is your reading personality? (via quiz at http://www.bookbrowse.com/quiz/)
I fit all four profiles, apparently! Too ornery to fit into any one category :-)


Thank you for joining us today, Jackie!

Remember to check out Jackie's blog, Romance Novels for Feminists, and leave a comment or question for Jackie below!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Charleen Talks Overdone Romance

Today, we welcome Charleen of Cheap Thrills for a special guest post.  She is talking romance and relationships on a different level.  Please read on and share your own thoughts in the comments section.

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Romance is overdone. 

Perhaps it's not a popular opinion to have around Valentine's Day (or maybe it is, I don't know). But I, for one, am tired of the romances, tired of the love triangles, and ready to see more non-romantic relationships featured in fiction! 

I recently read Code Name Verity. While I didn't find it as amazing as a lot of people did, it's great for one thing in particular: it portrays an intensely strong friendship between two young women, a relationship that's stronger and more real than most romantic relationships I read about. One of the characters even makes the comment, "It's like being in love, discovering your best friend." 

And that's so true, isn't it? We have this term -- in love -- that we apply to romance. But what about all the other relationships? What about other kinds of love? Do they not get as much attention in fiction simply because we don't have easy words to talk about them? Because we have to work for it rather than falling back on clichés? 

Maybe that's unfair to authors, and certainly there are plenty of books in which a familial relationship takes center stage, or a friendship between men or between women. 

The one that I really miss, though, and want to see more of, is the platonic male-female relationship. These are practically non-existent. If there's a man and a woman, it's just easier to throw them together. Sometimes it's insta-love. Sometimes it's a will-they-won't-they scenario. But somehow, there has to be a romantic subplot. It's expected. It's what the readers want. 

But is it? 

I can only speak for myself, of course, but it's not what I want! Not all the time, anyway. It makes it harder to enjoy the story when I'm rolling my eyes and snarking to myself, "Hmm, didn't see that coming..." 

Which raises the question, do I really love seeing platonic relationships, or am I just so relieved it's not another romance? At this point, I don't care. I just want more. I want authors to push me to the point where I finish a book and think... 

"Another book without the slightest hint of romance?! Come on! These relationships do exist in real life! Why can't we see them more in fiction?" 

Here's to reading more books that celebrate all different kinds of love!


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Thank you Charleen for sharing your love of anti-love with us!  

Readers:  Tell us your thoughts on platonic relationships.  Do you want to see more?  Any book recommendations for those of us wanting more on the platonic front?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Featuring: Charlotte of A Place on the Bookshelf

Today please welcome Charlotte, who blogs at A Place on the Bookshelf.


How long have you been blogging?
5 months :)


Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?
My blog not only features discussions about books and the odd review but I talk about my Creative Writing course at university and talk about other bits too - like crafts and fashion/beauty. Hopefully it appeals to many other bloggers out there!


Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?
Yes! I love writing annotations in books, but then that's because I love the look of a used book and putting your own mark on things! When I was doing coursework in English at secondary school and we had to annotate books I got really excited...haha


What's your favorite place to read?
I love reading in bed or on the sofa with a blanket and a cup of tea. As long as I'm cosy and warm I'm happy to read there!


Finish the sentence: My bookshelves are...
Extremely full. But organised! At uni, I have one shelf of 'to be read', one shelf of 'read' and my last shelf is other things like plays and books for my course.


My TBR pile is...
Ridiculously large. But I will tackle it! I keep meaning to read certain books but then buy newer ones and forget about the ones I have left at home...


What's one book that intimidates you?
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace - it's around 1000 pages long and has footnotes that are endnotes, so you'd have to keep flicking back and forth to figure out what's going on. Eventually I will read it but reading something a little simpler is more motivating, especially during assignment time!


How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?
I like to blog and do crafty things and watch a lot of TV and films...oops. At the moment I'm working on a Christmas stocking for my dog, Jack :) I also like to bake, although I haven't done that for a while. Most of my time is taken up with uni work though.


What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?
My favourite ones are The Shawshank Redemption, The Great Gatsby, The Green Mile and Fight Club.


What are 3 of your must-read blogs?
A Bookish Heart
Hailes Heart Fashion
A Beautiful Mess


Thank you for joining us today, Charlotte!

Remember to check out Charlotte's blog, A Place on the Bookshelf, and leave a comment or question for her below!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sorcha Discusses Review Requests & How to Handle Them

Please welcome Sorcha of Writing About Books.  She is here today to talk about her experiences with accepting books for review, from how potential authors and publishers can contact you as a blogger to deciding whether the review is right for you.  

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I have been receiving increasing numbers of contacts from writers and publishers with regards to reading and reviewing books. I therefore thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learnt along the way about handling contacts.

Have an “About” page on your site.

(Mine is here.)

This gives a brief summary about you as a person to let potential contacts know more about you. Share as little or as much information as you want, but I would suggest as a minimum:

  • Include your approximate geographical location (America, Canada, UK, etc). This can have an affect on what items you can receive, tours you can take part in, etc. UK users can’t download ebooks from Amazon.com; publishers may be restricting tours to Australia or the Far East; paper copies of books may only be posted to UK or Europe addresses due to postage costs, etc. 
  • Detail a way of contacting you. Your twitter ID. An email address – set up a separate address and have the emails forwarded to your proper address if you’re worried about spam. I wouldn’t recommend posting your physical home address online. 
  • Have a link through to your Review Policy Page. 

Have a “Review Policy” page.

(Mine is here.)

This page should list what your rules are. Sometimes you will only change this to exclude something when it happens the first time and you want to prevent it happening again. So you need to cover:

  • The books you do and don’t read/review. 
  • Whether you charge for reviews. 
  • What kind of reviews you will produce – if you charge for one, will you guarantee a 5* review? If you don’t, do you reserve the right to write a decent review, with whatever rating you feel like? 
  • Whether you read only paper based books, or whether you also do ebooks (kindle, kobo, etc) and audiobooks. 
  • How you accept requests – via email (point back to the “About page” or repeat it on this page), twitter, etc. 
  • How you will NOT accept requests.
    • I’ve had full page submissions posted into the comments section of my “about” page. That comment was promptly deleted, ignored, and my review policy updated accordingly to say I do not accept submissions via comments – I haven’t had one since. 
    • I’ve had a request for a free review, sending me to a link where I can’t download the book. I replied back, declining to take forward, and the author wrote back a week later, asking again for free review, and sending me a link where I can get the book – at full price! This time I ignored him, and didn’t even reply. 

Handling Review Requests

First, know thyself.

  • How fast can you read? Do you have other commitments that can take your time away from reading? How soon after reading can you produce a review? You don’t want to commit to a book and then not be able to deliver a review on time. 

Know your books.

  • What have you already committed to? Do you know their publication dates? Are you able to read all the books you have already? 

When you know the answers to the above, you will already know the answer when you get another request come through for a review. Is it a book I like the sound of, and if so, do I have the time to read it?

  • If the answer is “yes” reply politely and go “yes please!” Then work from there. Confirm the date the author would like a review up and published. Agree the format (e.g.mobi, pdf, paperbook). 
  • If the answer is “I don’t know” then the answer really is “no.” If the answer is “no” reply to the request saying “no, sorry but thanks for asking.” Give whatever excuse/reason you are comfortable with, e.g. 
    • I’m backed up with reviews. 
    • Sorry, but I don’t think it’s my style of book and I don’t want to give you a bad review simply because I didn’t get on with it. 

Authors often want publicity as much as getting the book out there and reviewed. To take the sting out the tail of a “no thanks,” offer to hold an interview or giveaway. (Example interview and giveaway.)

Read and review the book.

  • Know when the book is to be published, or the agreed date with the Author/publisher. 
  • Read the book when you can. 
  • Write the review and schedule it as close to the date agreed as possible. 
  • As a reviewer, you are there, in part, to assist the author with sales or traffic. Wherever possible therefore, include links to where readers can buy the book and find the author, such as on Goodreads, Twitter and the related webpage for the book.
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Thank you Sorcha for a very informative article!

Readers:  Do you have any questions?  
Do you have any additional tips or suggestions that you would add to Sorcha's recommendations?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Featuring: Wesley of Library Educated

Today please welcome Wesley, who blogs at Library Educated.


What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?
The blog title comes from a quote by Ray Bradbury. His family was too poor to send him to college, so he went to the library several times a week, often for hours and read everything he could get his hands on. He said that this was a better education than he could have ever received at a school.


How long have you been blogging?
It hasn't been very long! I'd wanted to blog for awhile but had a couple of naysayers convince me that it would be a waste of everyone's time. This year I said "Whatever, I do what I want!" and started it. I'm so glad I did. Should have started sooner!


Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?
I think 2 things make the blog unique.

First that a post is basically my review. I've seen book blogs where they copy and paste the amazon.com description and then review it in 2 sentences at the very end. How is that helpful?!

Secondly, that I review a wide range of books not just the most recent trendy books.


Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?
If it's a library book absolutely not. That book isn't yours! Use post-its!

If it's in my own book I usually am using highlighters for quotes. My copy of "Mere Christianity" is a yellow striped mess!


Do you have any reading accessories you can't do without?
A comfy chair and the set of bookmarks my friend gave me for my birthday a few years ago. No dog eared pages in my apartment!


Finish the sentence: My bookshelves are...
surprisingly slim. I use the library so much that the amount of books that I do own are not overwhelming. If I own a book that means it gets my super stamp of approval, I'm exclusive like that!


My TBR pile is...
considerable. It's quixotic, I know I will never not have a big stack of intriguing books to read.


One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?
I can't get in to Jane Austen. I've tried a few times and just can't get into it. I kind of want to shake the people in the stories and be like "just be honest with each other and you'll avoid most of this mess!".


If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?
Uh, where wouldn't I go?

Paris, Ireland, Berlin, Japan, Greece, Italy...so many places that provide great settings for stories and wonderful writers.


How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?
One of my favorite things to do is travel! Unfortunately it's an expensive hobby so it doesn't happen as much as I'd like. Right now I'm planning for celebrating my sister's 30th birthday in Mexico with her in Summer of 2014.

I also am pretty crafty (especially sewing) and I love watching movies and binge watching tv shows.


What are 3 of your must-read blogs?
Neroli Blossoms
101 Books
Travel Fashion Girl


What is your reading personality? (via quiz at http://www.bookbrowse.com/quiz/)
I'm an all-arounder.I guess that's a good thing, right?

Your responses showed you fitting into three different personalities:

Exacting Reader: You love books but you rarely have as much time to read as you'd like - so you're very particular about the books you choose.

Serial Reader: Once you discover a favorite writer you tend to stick with him/her through thick and thin and eagerly await the next in the series.

Eclectic Reader: You read for entertainment but also to expand your mind. You're open to new ideas and new writers, and are not wedded to a particular genre or limited range of authors.



Thank you for joining us today, Wesley! We enjoyed getting to know you and your blog!

Remember to check out Wesley's blog, Library Educated, and leave a comment or question below.